The Division of MCH Workforce Development (DMCHWD) supports interdisciplinary and interprofessional education and training programs that emphasize leadership, and family-centered, community-based, culturally competent systems of care. This month, DMCHWD shares interdisciplinary and interprofessional highlights from across the network.
The Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) is pleased to announce the release of the MCHB Nutrition webpage. Nutrition is vital to the healthy development and well-being of infants, children, youth, and adults, including those with special health care needs. MCHB’s programs promote the nutritional well-being of maternal and child health populations across the lifespan.
MCH Training Programs began in the 1920s when short courses were offered to a variety of disciplines, including nurses, social workers, physical therapists, obstetricians, and pediatricians. Learn more about training-related points in history and more on the MCH Timeline.
The MCH Navigator has developed a new implementation brief focused on interdisciplinary/interprofessional team building . This resource provides learning opportunities related to the four domains that assist in successfully implementing skills associated with interprofessional practice as identified by the Interprofessional Education Collaborative. Trainings consist of a range of learning modalities, levels of engagement, and interaction. This brief is part of a series of implementation tools to address the need for translational learning to assist MCH professionals in putting their knowledge to practice in their daily work. Other implementation tools, such as family-professional partnership and working with communities/systems, can be found on the Translational Learning webpage.
Healthcare professionals receive very little education on pediatric sleep disorders during training, yet as medical home providers they encounter children and adolescents with significant sleep problems. There is a lack of high-quality, evidence-based education for providers regarding screening, diagnosis, management, and referral of children with sleep disorders. The Pediatric Pulmonary Centers (PPCs) have created six interdisciplinary web-based modules to fill this educational gap: Introduction to Sleep Health (healthy sleep, infant safe sleep, sleep hygiene); Pediatric Insomnia; Sleep Disordered Breathing (snoring, central and obstructive sleep apneas); Parasomnias (sleepwalking, bedwetting, nightmares); Hypersomnolence Disorders (Narcolepsy, insufficient sleep syndrome); and Movement Disorders in Sleep (rhythmic movements, bruxism, periodic limb movements, restless leg syndrome).
Each module includes cases to illustrate key points and uses an interdisciplinary approach which emphasizes family strengths. Roles for medicine, nutrition, nursing, respiratory care, social work/mental health and family leaders are incorporated into each case. All cases include expert insights; “red flags;” history-taking using a standardized screening tool; and conclude with an interdisciplinary plan, links to tools and handouts (for example a sleep diary and an evidence-based sleepiness scale), and resources/supports for families. Suggestions for family-centered education for common sleep problems and indications for referral to a sleep specialist are clearly indicated. Interdisciplinary content authors included physicians, social workers, nutritionists, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, nurses, and family advocates. The PPC Sleep Education Modules modules promote improved outcomes for children and families focusing on family sleep health and provide practical, usable information and tools for providers in settings such as medical homes, Children with special health care needs (CSHCN) programs, home visiting programs, and federally funded health centers.
The Healthy Tomorrows Partnership for Children Program (HTPCP) is celebrating a milestone this year – 30 years as a federal grant program! For the past 30 years, HTPCP has provided approximately 74 million dollars to 296 projects in 48 states, and Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam. As HRSA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) enter into a third decade of working toward improving child health, they have developed a series of case studies and activities to demonstrate program successes.
Help us celebrate this wonderful program as we look back on 30 years and plan for the decades to come!
Stay tuned for more information on celebratory activities and a contest!
Historically, each of the 52 Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) programs used idiosyncratic measures to track the effectiveness of training in family-professional partnerships and interdisciplinary/interprofessional team building. Such before-after training data provided a limited view of training quality and impact. Over the last five years, a cadre of leaders have worked together to form the LEND Program Quality Improvement (LPQI) Network, with the goals of devising common measurement tools, creating a national database, and using benchmarks to drive improvements in workforce training.
Participating LEND programs measure trainee competency in these areas using two validated tools: the LEND Core Competency Measure (CCM) is based on trainee self-evaluation, and the Interdisciplinary/Family-Centered Observation Rubric (I-FOR) relies on faculty observation. Programs use a proprietary web-based dashboard to enter trainee and faculty data collection at T1 (beginning of the training year), T2 (approximately one-third of the way through the training year) and T3 (end of the training year). A visualization tool embedded in the dashboard allows programs to see their trainees’ change from baseline to year end, filter data by variable (e.g. trainee discipline) and compare their results to a “national average” benchmark. Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) staff manage the dashboard, implement additional features based on user feedback, host monthly technical assistance calls, coordinate the development of shared resources, orient/onboard new programs, and support the production of research manuscripts.
A 2016-2017 pilot at 7 sites (23 are currently participating) found aggregate CCM and I-FOR scores increased across both competencies from baseline to year end. Programs unanimously report that the data has led to rich conversations among faculty about leadership skills across disciplines and informed curricular decisions. And as one program shared: “The process also helped us go a step further and ask how we know that all of our experiences (clinical and non-clinical) are truly family-centered and interprofessional.”
This effort has led to an increased emphasis on observable behaviors in determining trainee knowledge and skills, and a decreased reliance on self-assessment measures to drive important curricular decisions. The development and implementation of the I-FOR across sites has also initiated a national dialogue on what constitutes foundational- and advanced-level “competency” and reasonable expectations for all trainees upon program completion.
The LPQI Network will continue to recruit additional LEND programs to participate, aiming to increase data richness and the degree to which the “national average” benchmark is representative of the entire network. A subgroup of faculty is beginning to revise the I-FOR to align with language/concepts from the Maternal and Child Health Leadership Competencies, Version 4.0 and add a new component that assesses knowledge and skills in policy and working with communities and systems (“leadership”). The LPQI Network hopes to simultaneously connect with leaders from other DMCHWD grantee programs to determine if/how they could use the CCM and I-FOR to advance their training objectives.
For more information about LPQI please contact Ben Kaufman at AUCD (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This white paper approaches family involvement from the perspective of the family discipline itself, and the ongoing paradigm shift in family-centered care--from fringe to fabric. This document includes a summary of the history of family involvement in the LEND network and a series of eight individual handouts, which detail the definition, need, benefits, resources and strategies associated with each type of family involvement.
The Children's Healthy Weight Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (CHW-CoIIN) includes Louisiana as a state team focused on breastfeeding. Team lead Marci Brewer shared the following about Louisiana’s project.
Louisiana’s project focuses on building the capacity of and expanding the Louisiana Workplace Breastfeeding Support Program to create worksite cultures statewide that support employees who choose to breastfeed after returning to work through organizational policy and practice change. Over the last year and half of the Children’s Healthy Weight CoIIN project, the Louisiana team has had a number of successes, as well as a few barriers.
Successes for the Louisiana (LA) team include the following:
The Louisiana team also encountered the following barriers during their first year:
The following highlight was shared by the MCH Training Program at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health, funded through the Reaching Practicing MCH Professionals in Underserved Areas Through Education and Training Program.
To acknowledge the growing importance of interdisciplinary and interprofessional training and practice in public health, the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Training Program would like to highlight our recent contributions at the University of Texas at Austin Center for Health Interprofessional Practice and Education (IPE) Showcase. Team members Mollie Ewing, RN, MPH-C, and Stephanie Reynolds, MPH-C were selected to present a poster on the Overview of Mental Wellness training course.
The Overview of Mental Wellness course was co-developed with AVANCE-San Antonio (AVANCE-SA) and has reached upwards of 600 public health professionals and trainees since its launch. AVANCE is a nonprofit organization that offers parenting skills, workforce preparation, early childhood education, health screenings, and home visits for low-income and hard-to-reach families.
The MCH Training Program’s partnership with AVANCE-SA was established in July 2017 when our team performed a needs assessment of their leadership and staff. Based on AVANCE’s training needs and topics of interest identified, we co-created the multi-modal Overview of Mental Wellness course. AVANCE-SA staff members who participated in the needs assessment represented various professional backgrounds and academic disciplines, such as business administration, management, leadership development, psychology, and the natural sciences. The interprofessional and interdisciplinary nature of their staff helps to form lasting, meaningful partnerships with organizations such as our own, and successfully serve their clientele.
Since August 2018, the MCH Training Program has disseminated the training course to a multi-disciplinary audience of trainees, and created pre- and post-evaluation surveys to measure trainees’ change in knowledge, skills, and intentions related to mental wellness. The surveys also include data on demographics of trainees and their clientele, as well as general course feedback. Our interprofessional collaboration with AVANCE-SA remains strong and optimistic. We have plans to design a mental wellness training specifically for parental clientele, in hopes of reducing stigma and empowering parents to practice mental wellness strategies with their family members.
In continuation of our interprofessional efforts, the MCH Training Program seeks to form newfound partnerships with different academic institutions and community organizations, while strengthening existing partnerships. As shown by our training needs assessments and interdiscliplinary background of our trainees, the MCH Training Program strongly values interprofessionalism. We believe it is crucial that all professions and disciplines are fully engaged, rather than merely being represented in the group. This ensures that all individuals and organizations are involved in the decision-making process.
With the ever-increasing application of interprofessionalism in the public health field, we strive to increase teamwork and collaborative efforts across sectors in order to enhance the quality and delivery of healthcare. Ultimately, our team aims to collaborate with partnering organizations to achieve our mission: to strengthen the capacity of public health professionals serving MCH populations in underserved and rural areas within HRSA Region VI (TX, NM, OK, AR, and LA) and Michigan.
To provide some background on the MCH Training Program, we are housed within the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Health Living at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health and partner with Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Alongside our partners, we co-develop online and in-person trainings covering a wide array of topics, such as preconception health, early childhood nutrition, community leadership, and cultural competence. Offered at no-cost, the MCH Training Program provides a great opportunity for trainees to enhance their skills and knowledge surrounding maternal and child health and professional development. Through our collaboration with the Texas Department of State Health Services, we have more than 1,150 course completions. You can find our online courses available at https://go.uth.edu/MCHTraining .
With that, we would like to thank HRSA for their continued support and funding. If you have any questions or would like to know more about the MCH Training Program, feel free to contact the Program Manager, Cristell Perez, MPH at email@example.com or (512) 482-6150. To learn more about the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, contact us online.
The following highlight was shared by Mollie Ewing, RN, of the MCH Training Program at the UTHealth School of Public Health, funded through the Reaching Practicing MCH Professionals in Underserved Areas Through Education and Training Program.
To understand why the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Training Program team at the UTHealth has focused so much of its energy in recent years on training community health workers (CHWs), it’s important to understand two things. One is that preventable chronic diseases are now a far greater burden on the public’s health than infectious diseases, which were once the heaviest health burden on our population. The other is that lifestyle behaviors that take place outside the walls of the health care system, such as diet and physical activity, are now widely acknowledged as key to preventing and treating chronic diseases.
The MCH Training Program, which provides both online and in-person training for maternal and child health professionals, didn’t begin its operations with the expectation that CHWs would be such a dominant focus of their work. But they began conducting needs assessments with partnering organizations, and quickly discovered that CHWs accounted for the vast majority of trainees enrolling in their courses. CHWs, who help individuals to navigate services and stay on track with prevention and treatment, have been rapidly emerging as a key health care workforce to supplement what’s happening inside the clinical environments. According to the 2017 Annual Report of the Promotor(a) or CHW Training and Certification Advisory Committee , there has been a 92 percent increase of certified CHWs in Texas since 2012.
Dr. Courtney Byrd-Williams and Dr. Joan Borst, co-directors of the MCH Training Program, recognized the CHWs’ interest in their courses as an opportunity to improve maternal and child health at the community level. Texas is one of the few states in the country that offers CHW certification, and it requires, as it does with other health care professions, that licensed workers earn continuing education units (CEUs) to renew their licenses. A collaborative relationship with the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) enables the MCH Training Program to offer CEUs to CHWs who successfully complete courses.
Certified CHWs can earn CEUs by completing online courses, developed by the MCH Training Program, on topics like preconception health, mental health, professional leadership, community engagement, and cultural competence.
“We make the trainings available online so they are easily accessible to CHWs across the state, especially CHWs who may be working with populations in rural or hard-to-reach communities, “ said Byrd-Williams, Assistant Professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin.
The courses are multimodal and interactive, and they’re developed in consultation with groups like the Dallas-Fort Worth Community Health Workers Association (DFW-CHW).
One of the most popular courses, Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM), provides information that equips trainees to help their clients understand the risk factors and warning signs of GDM and, if needed, guide clients to the appropriate services. Promoting healthy diet, exercise, and weight for their fellow community members is emphasized in the GDM course and in another popular course, Addressing Infant Mortality: Preconception Health . This course highlights the importance of a healthy lifestyle before, during, and after pregnancy, along with information on guidelines to follow during pregnancy. The Addressing Infant Mortality course also teaches trainees how to develop a life plan with their clients. This is a tool that can be used to help guide people through considering their health and lifestyle goals, then setting realistic steps to achieve them.
“Community health workers are unique in that they tend to have an unusually close understanding of the community they serve,” said Ashley Rodriguez, Vice-President of the DFW-CHW Association. “The vital trusting relationships CHWs build, by meeting people where they are, enables the workers to serve as a truly functional link between public health and social services. Navigating and facilitating access to needed services is their overall goal and function, but their ability to reach underserved, underrepresented, and under-educated populations is at the center of everything they do and is a core public health principle.”
CHWs can also attend in-person trainings developed by the MCH Training Program. Martha Maldonado, DFW-CHW Association board member and Certified CHW Instructor, has presented several of these courses at DFW-CHW Association meetings over the past year. Between 20 and 50 local CHWs typically receive training at these quarterly meetings. The MCH Training Program recently gathered participant data when Maldonado presented the Overview of Mental Wellness course. The CHWs in attendance completed a pre- and post-test to evaluate knowledge acquisition, behavioral intention and self-efficacy to apply the information and attitudes towards the course content. Significant increases were found in all four of the constructs measured.
“The trainings allow us to better serve CHWs by providing quality continuing education,” said Rodriguez. “They also help us as an organization, by drawing more members to our quarterly meetings, and attracting new members throughout the metroplex.”
In order to keep up with the pace of this quickly growing profession, the MCH Training Program is continuing to gather data and feedback from trainees to better understand who is taking advantage of these training opportunities and what information will empower CHWs to make a meaningful impact in their community.
“We are excited to have found this opportunity to help train the public health workforce and look forward to continuing our collaboration with the DFW-CHW Association, DSHS, and CHWs across the state,” said Byrd-Williams.
More information about the Maternal and Child Health Training Program , our online courses, and the certificate and fellowship programs is available online. The MCH Training Program is funded by a Health Resources and Services Administration grant and housed at the Michael and Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at the UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin, Texas .
More information about the DFW-CHW Association is available online at www.dfwchw.org .
In the past, ArizonaLEND has hosted a 90-minute Lunch-and-Learn focused on Leadership and Culture. However, it quickly became apparent that an entire day was needed to address this important topic, so a Saturday workshop was developed.
Cristina Castaneda and Darold Joseph, ArizonaLEND faculty members, led the workshop and shared personal stories and examples from their Hispanic and Native American cultures. They discussed the importance of cultural awareness, responsiveness and interpretation, and addressed critical perspectives about intersections of disability, race and culture. Faculty and trainees also had the opportunity to share their own cultural experiences. This workshop had an interprofessional approach as 17 professional fields were represented and participants discussed ways in which they could apply these concepts when interacting with patients, families and other professionals within their discipline.
Due to the vulnerability, openness, and respect of each participant and the presenters, this workshop was a great success. One trainee stated, “I feel like I can listen and speak from a more informed place.” The day started and ended with Darold playing a traditional Native American flute, giving everyone an opportunity to reflect on what they learned.
Former MCH Trainee - Making Lifelong Connections
Coming to the Making Lifelong Connections conference in Madison, Wisconsin as a former MCH Trainee and undergraduate student was one of the greatest highlights of my spring semester. It was a privilege to be in an environment of dynamic professionals working in maternal and child health. In a “Pitch” Roundtable session, I presented the work I’ve done over the past year as a Health Educator in Infant Safe Sleep, which focused on the sudden spike of infant mortality in Baltimore, Maryland. I had an insightful discussion with professionals involved in similar work and got to hear their perspectives and suggestions. I left the conference feeling empowered and reaffirmed in my goals and aspirations of pursuing Public Health Leadership and hope in the future to have further opportunities to meet MCH professionals and contribute to the conversation on maternal and child health and wellbeing.
Former Kennedy Krieger Pipeline Trainee
Since participating in the first cohort for the Maternal and Child Health-Leadership, Education, Advocacy, Research, & Network program at the Kennedy Krieger Institute as part of HRSA’s MCH Pipeline Training Program in 2016, my life has been changed! The relationships made and experiences I had that summer ignited my career in public health. I gained tremendous knowledge and mentorship from not only my program directors, but from each student and staff member involved. I had the unique opportunity to work with several interdisciplinary clinicians at the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury where I witnessed firsthand providers unite to develop comprehensive actionable treatment plans designed for each child/adolescent patient. My capstone research project, Sexual Health in Men with Spinal Cord Injuries, attempted to identify current barriers, educate, and provide strategies to promote and increase sexual & overall health in young men who suffer from spinal cord injuries.
During orientation week networking with other scholars from partnering institutes across the US, I was introduced to CDC’s Public Health Associate Program (a highly competitive 2-year fellowship). I was immediately intrigued and applied as soon as I became eligible. In 2018, I was accepted and today I am continuing my service in maternal and child health addressing the congenital syphilis epidemic in Phoenix, AZ at the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. Without the support of the Division of MCH Workforce Development, I am confident none of this would have been possible. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and strongly support for the continued funding for trainee programs, such as the MCH Pipeline Program, to inspire and develop rising public health professionals.
Postdoctoral Psychology Fellow, Developmental Medicine Center, Boston Children’s Hospital
Interdisciplinary practice is the standard of care within the Developmental Medicine Center (DMC) at Boston Children’s Hospital. Using this model, a wide range of individuals, including but not limited to, the departmental chief, seasoned attendings, nurse practitioners, aspiring fellows, residents, students, and self-advocates come together in service of our patients. Each member of the team is afforded the opportunity to share his or her unique observations, knowledge, and insight, and for a moment, the pressures of time are suspended while the interdisciplinary team carefully reflects on a single patient. In other words, a typical morning in the DMC.
When I first started my clinical fellowship, I questioned how an interdisciplinary practice could possibly work, and as a trainee, I worried whether my contributions would be viewed as meaningful. Instead, what I experienced was unyielding curiosity for others’ opinions, conceptualizations, and formulations that resulted in dynamic conversations and a deeper understanding of the whole child. Self-advocates shared personal experiences and attendings brought wisdom, while students honed their observational skills. Physicians discussed complex medical conditions and psychologists considered the many contributing psychosocial and psychological factors. Together, our multidisciplinary team is undoubtedly stronger than the sum of its parts, and interdisciplinary practice has certainly taught me to be a more thoughtful clinician.
DBP/LEND/LEAH/COR Fellow, University of Minnesota
As a fellow in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, I have been fortunate enough to participate in three interdisciplinary training programs at the University of Minnesota: LEND, LEAH, and COR. Through these programs, I have learned with both peer-fellows and mentors about the importance of incorporating different perspectives to pursue shared passions and goals. My area of focus is on utilizing nature to improve wellness in youth, particularly those with developmental differences. Through collaboration with psychologists, educators, and landscape architects, we created an interactive curriculum using green walls in schools to promote learning in Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics (STEAM) fields. We also performed a secondary data analysis using geographic information system (GIS) to examine associations between school-level greenery and student emotional-behavioral outcomes in over 20,000 5th graders in Minnesota. In our Developmental-Behavioral Clinic, our interdisciplinary team has been leading a motivational interviewing guidance program for families to set goals to increase their time outdoors. Many of these inter-professional endeavors were highlighted in our recent international TEDx talk about using collaboration to promote the human connection to nature. Our next steps will be to encourage nature as a clinical intervention to promote cognitive, affective, and behavioral health in pediatrics; and to collaborate with the local, regional, and state park departments, as well as primary care clinics, to continue connecting children with nature to inspire wellness.
Oregon LEND Trainees - PHAME
Oregon LEND trainees Lily Gullion, OTR/L, and Gabrielle Watson, Au.D. and faculty Hilary Mahon, M.Ed, were invited to meet some of the students at PHAME, a performing arts school for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. PHAME strives to shape the next generation of great performers and creators, and they value their students as artists first and foremost. For the LEND trainees, this was an opportunity to see a community outside of the medical field, and to have an idea of what respect and inclusion really looks like.
The team included audiology, occupational therapy, and special education disciplines, who were able to collaborate to identify strengths and needs of this community group, and Oregon LEND hopes to continue this partnership in the future.
My LEND experience was an incredibly valuable one as a first-year graduate student working with individuals diagnosed with autism and other developmental disorders at the University of Missouri Thompson Center. The most memorable aspects of my experience came from the expertise and clinical skills that were demonstrated by faculty. Being able to learn from such a great group of faculty and invited speakers was incredible. The didactic presentations and interdisciplinary diagnostic assessments allowed me to gain exposure to unique issues and barriers that individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities often face.
My leadership project was inspired by the increasing insistence from leading health organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, for interdisciplinary collaboration to promote best practices in the delivery of quality, and socially significant, outcomes for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families. I chose to create a survey for credentialed practitioners of behavior analytic services to assess their experiences with interdisciplinary collaboration, as well as the perceptions of both broad and discipline-specific challenges that can discourage effective collaboration among providers. Addressing the barriers to interdisciplinary collaboration between disciplines among behavior analysts can aid in the effectiveness of behavioral interventions.
I greatly appreciate my experience as a LEND trainee. All of the learning experiences that were provided for me and the network of professionals that I’ve had the chance to connect with has been amazing. It has given me more confidence as a student and a future professional. Go LEND!
The LEND Fellowship has provided me with extensive knowledge on disability policy and has given me leadership training. Most importantly I have learned how to help families advocate for their children's needs and how to use an interdisciplinary, family-centered approach, to provide the most appropriate care and interventions. The LEND Program has inspired me to continue working as part of a team to improve healthcare delivery systems, clinical practices, and support models.
As a self-advocate, I have long been told that my value is as a primary source with the implication being that I have far more to teach the world than it has to teach me. After LEND, I have come to believe this could not be further from the truth. While my experiences are certainly significant, they are in no way universally applicable. Indeed, the opportunity to collaborate with others in a welcoming learning environment has given me a broader view of things than I could ever have gleaned on my own.
The Phillips Neighborhood Clinic (PNC) is a University of Minnesota student-run free clinic, which is located in the basement of St. Paul's Lutheran Church and is open Mondays and Thursdays at night. The clinic has been serving the Phillips Neighborhood community since 2003, providing comprehensive, accessible, and culturally appropriate health care to persons who are underinsured and unstably housed.
The University of Minnesota Academic Health Center students (including Public Health Nutrition students) proudly work together on multi-disciplinary teams, under the supervision of licensed clinicians, to provide a wide array of services, including medicine, nursing, physical therapy, pharmacy, community health, mental health, social work, interpreting, and nutrition counseling.
When a patient is assigned to a team, all disciplines begin by reviewing the patient’s information and records in a “huddle.” Student clinicians formulate a plan for who will address which aspects of the visit (according to their discipline) and to plan questions to ask together. Because of the importance that interprofessionalism plays at the clinic, student clinicians learn how to support their profession in the best interest of the patients. Most importantly, students experience first-hand what it is like to be part of a care team, working with and listening to each other to determine how to best help their patients. By involving multiple disciplines in the care team and collaborating with preceptors and specialists through huddles, we are able to provide quality health care to the ethnically diverse and underserved population of the Phillips Neighborhood.
Public Health Nutrition students play an important role not only as clinicians, but also as facilitators in group classes and through the planning of special clinic events and wellness projects.
Interprofessional training should not end with freshman orientation. Nutrition Experiential Learning and Advocacy (NELA), a new student group formed in coordination with multiple schools at the University of Minnesota, supports increased nutritional information in the medical curricula and is involved in outreach to schools concerning an interprofessional approach to nutrition. Membership includes undergraduate, graduate and professional students from the University of Minnesota Schools of Medicine, Public Health, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Nursing, and Laboratory Sciences.
Food is often defined by culture, so students with different educational and cultural backgrounds work together to take it into account when discussing nutrition. NELA’s primary mission is to promote health awareness and wellness/nutrition education using evidence-based curricula as a part of healthcare education across professional borders.
Activities hosted by NELA provide an informal and inviting environment for students from different health professional programs to get to know each other while learning about the ways in which food impacts health. Because nutrition is important to everyone’s well-being, learning more about how to think and talk about what we eat is essential for every health profession student. Whether a patient has hypertension or is food insecure, there is a place for clinicians of all types to contribute to the conversation, and NELA aims to give young professionals the tools they need to make a difference.
Forming interprofessional relationships while in school is a great way to prepare students for their future careers working in interdisciplinary health care settings. NELA hosts activities directed towards a wide audience, including lunch lectures, cooking skills nights, simulations, and even a monthly newsletter! Whether it is teaching medical students how to do nutrition-focused physical exams or encouraging dentists to consider the role the microbiome can have on overall health, NELA is working to improve outcomes for all healthcare settings through interprofessional practice and connection.
Tulane MCH Nutrition Trainee
I have had the unique opportunity to combine my love of food and passion for nutrition into a career that takes a ‘Food as Medicine’ approach. My background in culinary arts as well as nutrition has primed me for the work I do now as a Culinary Medicine Educator at the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine (GCCM) at Tulane University.
GCCM is the first teaching kitchen to be fully integrated into a medical school – where medical students traditionally receive minimal nutrition education. Here, I teach medical students how to cook meals that are simple, healthy, and delicious so that they may go on to teach their patients the same thing. This interdisciplinary approach to patients' health allows us to have an overall greater impact.
In addition to teaching medical students, we also offer free cooking classes for the community where lessons include knife skills, how to go grocery shopping, and how to read a nutrition label. This may sound simple enough, but it can be a complete game changer for those that are afraid to step foot into the kitchen. Our message is simple: healthy food should be cheap, easy to prepare and, above all else, taste good.
The MCH Nutrition Leadership Training program has allowed me to truly appreciate the need for an interdisciplinary approach to improving the health of my community. Through the knowledge and experience I am gaining, I will be able to more efficiently assess the needs of the community around me and provide programming that can make the biggest impact on overall health.
Former Drexel Catalyst Trainee
The MCH Public Health Catalyst Program instituted at Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health has provided many graduate students with the knowledge, skills and networking capital to succeed in the MCH field. I am a beneficiary of this program and have learned so much. During my time at the school, I became President of the Preconception Peer Educators club. This club seeks to educate students about family planning and maintain their sexual health while in school. This allowed me to organize students in creating and hosting events, such as the annual Infant Mortality event and the sexual health drive during VaIentine’s Day. I also participated in the Maternal and Child Health Working Group to bring up issues that students wanted to better understand. One of the events I facilitated was on Homelessness and Food Insecurity among Women, in which a Drexel professor discussed her work in Philadelphia. Lastly, I received the Joseph Tringali Maternal Child Health scholarship for my work around MCH issues during my time at Drexel.
Currently, I am a Public Health Nurse Home Visitor for Nurse Family Partnership. Our clients are low-income first-time mothers, who enroll in the program during their pregnancies and are assigned a nurse, like myself, to visit them in their homes and provide health, wellness and social services until their childen turn two. During this time, I screen children for developmental delays and provide parents with information to support their children in meeting these developmental milestones. At my job, I serve on the policy committee, which examines system-wide issues that our clients encounter. Most recently, I agreeded to testify on behalf of children exposed to lead-based paint and contaminated dust during a Philadelphia City Council hearing. Over time, I have realized that nurses have incredible insight into what happens on the ground whether that is in the homes, in the hospital or in community centers. Leveraging our knowledge to impact policy legislation has been an interest of mine along my career journey.
As an MCH trainee, I was given many unique opportunities to develop as a leader and to strengthen my connections within the MCH community. As part of the MCH Nutrition Training Program at the University of Tennessee, I facilitated cultural competence trainings for Title V employees, led workshops for new nutrition graduate students, and helped organize the program’s annual Promoting Healthy Weight colloquium. I was accepted into my dietetic internship, an experience that is required to be eligible to sit for the Registration Examination for Dietitians. Unfortunately, since the internship is a full-time commitment, I was unable to continue as a trainee. At first, it was difficult to accept that my time as an MCH trainee had ended, and I hoped to remain connected to this national program that has given me so many opportunities to learn about the community I hope to one day serve. I was thrilled when I was accepted into the Trainee Ambassador Group. As a trainee ambassador, I continue to remain connected to the MCH trainees while I build connections within the different MCH programs.
Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. to attend the annual meeting of the MCH Nutrition grantees in Washington D.C. The meeting, which was led by the University of Tennessee this year, is a way for grantees and trainees from all eight MCH Nutrition training programs to discuss updates from their individual programs and to plan future endeavors. This was my first year attending the meeting, and I was proud to represent the Trainee Ambassador program alongside Samantha Croffut. As a part of this year’s meeting, I attended a policy workshop alongside the trainees. During the policy workshop, we had the opportunity to meet with our representatives and share information on current MCH issues. We also received further training in cultural competence and collaborated on ideas to connect the MCH trainees from the nutrition training programs.
My experience in D.C. allowed me to meet many of the MCH nutrition trainees I had previously collaborated with remotely. I am proud to be able to remain connected to the MCH community as a trainee ambassador while I continue my journey to become a registered dietitian and working towards paving the way for our children to have healthier futures.
When I was a Wisconsin LEND trainee, I recall viewing a TEDxTalk, “Leading with Lollipops,” by DrewDudley during our final Leadership Development Workshop that year. Dudley described leadership perceptions that affect our comfort considering or referring to ourselves as “leaders,” despite where or what we have or have not accomplished in our professional or personal trajectories. The perceptions that “leadership,” or calling ourselves “leaders,” is attained or deserved if we do something monumental, or, “changing the world,” as he described, diminishes things we do daily that makes us all leaders. Dudley described a “lollipop moment” as “…a moment where someone said something or did something that you feel fundamentally made your life better” (TEDxToronto - Drew Dudley "Leading with Lollipops" ). He shared a personal story of a young woman who approached him on his last day at a university he attended, and she told him about the first time she met him. She was a new student who was very anxious and unsure about her fit at this university. On registration day, she decided it would be best to quit, and as she was about to inform her parents of this decision, she saw Dudley walking out of a building with a bucket of lollipops as part of his charity work. As Dudley approached her, he stopped to speak to a man standing next to her and asked him to give her a lollipop. The events that unfolded after that moment not only helped her change her mind and remain at this university, but she also formed an important relationship stemming from this interaction. She thanked Dudley for approaching her that day, and because of this encounter (i.e., “lollipop moment”), her life changed from that point forward.
I recently attended the 2019 Making Lifelong Connections (MLC19) conference, with the theme, “Let Opportunity Lead You….” I was one of the Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG) plenary presenters and a panelist for the current and emerging MCH professionals panel as a current MCH professional. In preparing for the panel, one question was, "What brought you to MCH?" I return to this idea of a “lollipop moment” whenever asked these kinds of questions. This moment is my quintessential "lollipop moment." My MCH journey began in 2006 when I was invited to apply to the MCH Pipeline Training Program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UW-Milwaukee) by the training director at that time. This person would also be one of my trusty suppliers of “lollipop moments” for many years to come. During my quiet drive to Madison, Wisconsin for the conference, I tried to find ways to describe how pivotal that invitation was to me. I felt like I had shot out of a rocket; this was when I felt I took off and my MCH journey began. This invitation, or “lollipop moment,” changed my life and greatly influenced my future professional accomplishments after that (e.g., my research interests, my publications, my career as a pediatric occupational therapist, participating in Wisconsin LEND, being a 2018 TAG Ambassador, and now continuing for a second term in the 2019 TAG).
Attending MLC19 provided an environment to showcase my MCH leadership through the TAG plenary session on cultural competency and the MCH professional panel. MLC19 represented the vastness of skills, experiences, and enthusiasm for various niches within MCH. This event also fostered networking, discussions, and learning to support continued MCH leadership development. The presentation on “Imposter Syndrome,” by Cecilia O. Macias was especially captivating and resonant as my Ph.D. training winds down in the next few months. As I explore new paths to take with a Ph.D., I know my MCH training is an integral part of my professional identity and work I want to continue regardless of where I land. I also know I have a responsibility to turn around and help future MCH professionals in line, as was done when I received my very first “lollipop,” and create those moments for others in impactful and valuable ways to support the proliferation of the MCH field.